The Digital Summer Semester at American Studies Leipzig

In the upcoming summer semester 2021, all instruction at ASL will continue to be done remotely, mostly via Zoom and Moodle. We have not made this decision lightly. However, in light of the contingencies imposed by the pandemic, we feel that it is more important for faculty and students to be able to plan the upcoming months. Deciding to do one more fully digital semester, and making this decision now, will allow all of us to better prepare for the road ahead.

What You Should Know About the Upcoming Semester

Please carefully read the attached “Digital Semester Guidelines” for details. The document contains advice on how to navigate the upcoming semester, on what technology you should ideally prepare, and other details.

 

Why We Decided to Go Digital for All Lectures / Seminars / Tutorials

As with the past winter semester, our decision to go all online for this semester is driven primarily by three considerations:

  1. While the kind of intellectual work we do thrives in the immediacy of in-person contact, it can also be done online, offering an alternative that is safer and that works reasonably well given the circumstances. As Americanists, we do not need labs or other specialized equipment; we need our books, our brains, and the ability to talk to one another, and as much as we would prefer to do the talking in person, it can also be done online. Doing so allows us to avoid unnecessary health risks to the student body, the ASL community, and the larger public.

  2. In our assessment, hybrid teaching arrangements are less practical and come with their own sets of problems. Hybrid teaching scenarios, with some students present in the room and others tuning in from home, create a disparity between these two groups, splitting up the seminar group into those who can be there in person and those who cannot. It makes for easier conversation among those who are in one room, at the expense of the others. For students with preexisting health conditions, unable to ever join for an in-person session, they create a form of structural inequality. This is a dynamic we want to avoid. Similarly, scenarios that are built around the hope of switching back to in-person learning in the middle of the semester generate additional uncertainty and organizational friction that we feel is unnecessary.

  3. We believe that our resources are better spent if we focus on delivering a good all-digital learning experience rather than experimenting with the complexities, shortcomings, and frictions of hybrid instruction. We hope that an overall decrease of infection numbers and an increase of vaccinations will allow students to mingle safely in their spare time, thus hopefully adding at least a semblance of the social experience that is part of studying in more normal times. On our end, we will look for strategies that make the fully remote classroom as good as it can be. If you have ideas or suggestions on how to improve this experience further, please contact us at americanstudies@uni-leipzig.de using the subject “Digital Semester Suggestion.”